Up until 2014, the local Anderson South Carolina Veterans Administration Clinic provided services in a group setting for veterans with PTSD issues. The program was highly effective due to the talent and understanding of the local VA staff. However, despite its success, the VA cancelled the program. Veterans were left without their support network. Like a fire fight going the wrong way, one of these vets stood up and "shouted" the infantry slogan "Follow Me". The group followed the leader's command and the rest is our history.
Over the next several months, the group found ways to do what any combat veteran learns. They found a way for the group to survive. There were three key milestones that lead to the basis of today's "Vets Helping Vets Anderson". First, the group was fortunate to have a leader with a strong future vision and exemplary leadership qualities. Second, the group formed a relationship with the Anderson South Carolina Elks Club who welcomed them and provided a meeting place second to none. The third and most important milestone was a decision by the original fourteen members that to sustain Vets Helping Vets, any veteran with an honorable discharge would be welcomed with open arms. Today, any honorably discharged veteran is welcomed regardless of rank, branch of service, military experience or history. Six years later, Vets Helping Vets is a tight knit group of veterans representing World War II up to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Currently, approximately 85 to 95 veterans attend our Wednesday morning meetings. As you can imagine, most are Vietnam era veterans, but our ranks are growing with veterans from all mid-east conflicts.
Our meetings are like no other veteran's group meetings. Yes, we eat donuts, drink coffee and tell great jokes focusing on our neighbor's branch of service. But most importantly, we honor our name: Vets Helping Vets. We look out for each other. We have each other's back. When one of us trips or falls another one picks up their rucksack and helps them through whatever issue they are experiencing.
Our meetings have five simple rules: no politics, no religion (however, we do close our meeting with a prayer from our Chaplin), no cussing, no blood and guts war stories and, most importantly, whatever is said in the meeting room stays in the meeting room. Our dress is simple - our black t-shirts with our logo and a veteran's cap. No Brasso and no spit-shine. We offer comaraderie, close friendships and, most of all, help.
What kinds of "help" you may wonder. We focus on veterans in the organization on an as needed basis. We also target donations to wider reaching veteran organizations that focus on certain needs and can show an extremely low expense ratio. That is, veteran focused groups that can put a remarkably high percentage of their income directly into veteran's hands. We follow that guideline also. We are a totally volunteer organization. We find ways of getting our treasury directly to veterans. One exception - the Wednesday morning coffee and donuts. We have kept up yard work for our sickened members, run errands for our aged members and we have made donations towards service dogs for members. One of our members donated a kidney to another member and we financially helped them with expenses not covered by insurance. Many members staff the local American Legion Honor Guard for local veteran funerals. We donate funds to members with unusual emergency needs or assistance with long term care issues.
If you are an honorably discharged veteran living in upstate South Carolina or adjoining Georgia areas, you are very welcome to join us.
Just remember, Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. at the Anderson Elks Club at 225 McGee Road. No proof of service is necessary. As we say, it doesn't matter what your rank or what you did while in service to the United States, when you come through the entry door, you are a Veteran!
The original group of 14 combat vets who met at the Anderson VA Clinic for combat related PTSD continue to meet on every Monday evening. We should stress that this group has a pinpoint aim on combat veterans, aka grunts. Although the group does not offer professional services, it does offer a path to the special camaraderie built on the experiences of others who, like you, survived combat and its long term affects. If you feel this need, here is a very effective way to build a bond with veterans who have walked your same path, both in combat and after their service. They still walk the path, but it’s not as challenging for them now. They have someone watching their backs. If you wish more information on this group, please call one of its members at 864-245-0181.